Fools and their money...
January 3, 2015 4:51 PM   Subscribe

If your choice of hard drive is affecting the sound of your music, perhaps you can fix it up with an ambient field conditioner.

(And of course, you must not forget your $1000 3-foot HDMI cables, but that goes without saying.)
posted by dmd (143 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
 
Interesting. If you compress that webpage into a zip file, then open that file in a text editor, it reads out "PLACEBO EFFECT."
posted by JHarris at 4:57 PM on January 3, 2015 [24 favorites]


I have a master's degree in audio bullshitology and I can attest to these articles.
posted by double block and bleed at 4:58 PM on January 3, 2015 [12 favorites]


If it came up in a quiz, I probably would have attributed "I radiate everything. I'm a thermonuclear bomb and I've not yet finished exploding" to Chali 2na rather than The Sun.
posted by Wolfdog at 4:58 PM on January 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


(Just shows how a person can be mistaken, I guess.)
posted by Wolfdog at 4:59 PM on January 3, 2015


As always, the audiophile community is a rich vein of bad crazy.
posted by mhoye at 5:01 PM on January 3, 2015 [12 favorites]


Ooooo....I can feel the flapdoodle!
posted by Confess, Fletch at 5:11 PM on January 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


I love the article about hard drive choice. My belief is that Seagate drives have harder edges between the 0 and 1 bits while the Hitachi drives provide a smooth, warm transition.

The entire article is predicated on "we're two guys and say we heard this difference". No effort to establish their detected difference was in any way meaningful or objective. I wonder if there's much overlap between hifi crazies and anti-vaxxers. Also is there like a super special niche publication for high end audio enthusiasts who are also electrosensitive? Maybe special speaker fabric guaranteed not to exacerbate Morgellon's?
posted by Nelson at 5:14 PM on January 3, 2015 [14 favorites]


Remember to tie the right knots in your speaker cables
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:16 PM on January 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


This Corsair drive (another SSD) conspicuously highlighted vocal sibilants, and had a hard, relentless quality that was impossible to miss. Strangely, it also robbed the music of pace; it was the least engaging on any emotional level thanks to an enveloping tunelessness that appeared to carve up a song like an MP3 rip.
Whaaaaat? What really kind of blows my mind is that these weren't blind tests, apparently. He seems to acknowledge that this is new, unexplored ground, but then doesn't take the obvious test to do blind tests.

Honestly, people that can see auras seem to make more sense to me than these folks.
posted by el io at 5:16 PM on January 3, 2015 [10 favorites]


I think that first article, on storage, was brilliant. (They're taking the piss, right?)

Harris thought the Hitachi sounded very ethereal, almost out of phase, and rated it lowest; the Seagate was sharper with a more thumpy bass, slightly brighter with a slight tendency to sibilance.
posted by armoir from antproof case at 5:17 PM on January 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


I just realized that I probably cannot tell audiophile woo from satire.
posted by el io at 5:19 PM on January 3, 2015 [40 favorites]


Is the next thing to follow vinyl?

A lady never mentions the flapdoodle when flapdoodle posers cross their arms, jut chins and wax eloquent.
"Uhhh yer flapdoodle is unzipped."
posted by Oyéah at 5:19 PM on January 3, 2015


Please read the comments on the HDMI cable...3 wolf moon perfect.
posted by Benway at 5:23 PM on January 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


> I just realized that I probably cannot tell audiophile woo from satire.

In that case, have your PayPal account handy while you check this shit out.
posted by ardgedee at 5:26 PM on January 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


Just remember you won't hear the superior sound if the drive isn't plugged into a gold plated SATA cable.
posted by ridogi at 5:27 PM on January 3, 2015


Maybe it's all just one long joke, trolls trolling other trolls, none wanting to be the first to blink...?

Although, now that I think about it, the blinking might wreck the audio experience. Best not to, then.
posted by slater at 5:33 PM on January 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


Those $1000 HDMI cables can't possibly be real, right? Or are these types of products why people such as, say, Mitt Romney, the Koch brothers, etc. feel they need such obscene amounts of wealth?
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 5:33 PM on January 3, 2015


Growing up I had a friend whose father was a wealthy physician. His hobby was high end home audio/theatre shit. The ammount of money he spent on components was staggering to say the least- I'd estimate his entire setup to be in the neighborhood of $500-750k. I'm pretty happy with my 40 year old pioneer cabinets and "civilian" grade receiver, but I will say that hearing his system at maximum firepower was pretty awe inspiring.
posted by stinkfoot at 5:36 PM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


You are all fools - sorry to say. Without the proper power cable to your hard drive unit, you will hear only shit.

I mean, what is $3500 if not spent on a Shunyata cable?
posted by nostrada at 5:36 PM on January 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


For me, the glaring hole of stupidity in all this is not even the lack of double-blind testing (IIRC, the audiophile community now avoid it after this embarrasing trial), it's the fact that these guys completely ignore what's happening in the studio. They seem completely unconcerned about what brand of harddrive was used to record the music, whether their cables were gold plated, whether a special magnetic resonance dampening prism or whatever was present. Apparenly the quality of power supply in your house is paramount. But the quality of power supply when the music was recorded is irrelevant.
posted by Jimbob at 5:37 PM on January 3, 2015 [18 favorites]


I would compare this to homeopathy, but at least customers of homeopathy are desperate for a cure or treatment for some ailment. Customers of these products just seem desperate to give away their money.
posted by rocket88 at 5:39 PM on January 3, 2015 [13 favorites]


after this embarrasing trial

That experiment just makes me want to sell audiophiles gold coathangers with audio connectors soldered on the ends.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 5:40 PM on January 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


There is definitely a difference between shitty components and good/great components, especially when it comes to distortion at higher volumes. That being said, the difference between great components and.... whatever sorts of components we're describing here, gets trivial really quickly. Unless you're Legolas or something.

Point of clarity edit: by components I mean turntables, receivers, speakers, not cables
posted by stinkfoot at 5:43 PM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


this embarrasing trial

$180.00 Monster cable? What audiophile community are you referring to?
posted by davebush at 5:43 PM on January 3, 2015


I just realized that I probably cannot tell audiophile woo from satire.

Yep, same here. Metafilter, I ask you in complete seriousness, is the first link a joke?
posted by jcreigh at 5:45 PM on January 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


Remember when magazines used to expose these bullshit artists? It's true! For the younger set, believe me when I tell you the various "stereo" mags used to keep the scammers at bay instead of taking their money.

There is a great article out there written by an engineer who orchestrated an a/b blind listening test to show the high end interconnects that rated best was clothes hanger wire.

The worst part of being into vinyl are the magical thinkers you run into all the time.

No online review of any so called hifi component is worth the pixels.
posted by clvrmnky at 5:45 PM on January 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


Of course this is pure BS, but at the risk of sounding ignorantly pedantic, what does a hard drive have to do with anything? It's the sound card that does all the audio processing, right?
posted by Ratio at 5:47 PM on January 3, 2015


It reminds me of the Dilbert joke about how the zeros travel through the cables more easily than the ones, which sometimes get stuck.
posted by 4ster at 5:48 PM on January 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


I was all ready to buy one, and then I noticed it was discontinued and replaced by a $595 power cable.
posted by lagomorphius at 5:51 PM on January 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


what does a hard drive have to do with anything

In theory your hard drive could not be able to load the file fast enough. In practice I'd be very surprised if that was a legitimate concern.

It's the sound card that does all the audio processing, right?

They're using a DAC (Digital-to-audio convertor,) so it's digital all the way to their stereo. The idea that your hard drive could change the how it sounds (beyond stuttering from slow I/O,) is asinine. I really can't believe this isn't satire. It requires someone deeply committed to their hobby to demonstrate a high level of ignorance about it.
posted by papercrane at 5:55 PM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is absolute nonsense. All that fancy, expensive gear isn't going to make a damn bit of difference to the sound quality because the ambient electromagnetic radiation from your house's electrical wiring induces signal artifacts that distorts the audio. If you want real sound quality, you have to house all of your equipment inside a gold-plated Faraday cage, which it just so happens I am selling for a very reasonable price in the low five digits.
posted by dephlogisticated at 5:56 PM on January 3, 2015 [10 favorites]


Unless you can get Bob Dylan to sit on your couch, play "Blonde on Blonde" and ask him if it sounds right, audiophile tinkering and blathering on about accurate "transparency" and such, is subjective bullshit.
posted by davebush at 5:57 PM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


How is it that people who are, um, lets be kind and say gullible enough to buy this sort of thing have so much money to blow on this stuff?

What am I doing wrong?
posted by inparticularity at 6:01 PM on January 3, 2015 [12 favorites]


To keep random air movement from distorting the sound, I do all my serious listening in a vacuum.
posted by Grumpy old geek at 6:01 PM on January 3, 2015 [38 favorites]


I feel like this has the potential to be an xkcd comic, and may already be one.
posted by Fizz at 6:05 PM on January 3, 2015


To keep random air movement from distorting the sound, I do all my serious listening in a vacuum.

You need air processing, noob. I produce all my HIFI quality air mixes from fractional distillation of bog standard "heathen" air. The wrong gas mix just ruins your sound quality.

*starts drafting business plan*
posted by leotrotsky at 6:11 PM on January 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


Why settle for a $1,000 3' HDMI cable when you can have a $9,000 3' USB cable. Plus you can save big by going longer: 6' for only $15,300, that's a savings of $2,700!!!
posted by Hairy Lobster at 6:11 PM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Unless you can get Bob Dylan to sit on your couch, play "Blonde on Blonde" and ask him if it sounds right, audiophile tinkering and blathering on about accurate "transparency" and such, is subjective bullshit.

This works best if your couch is sheathed in iridium.
posted by Wolfdog at 6:12 PM on January 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


I've set up a database of all of the major recording studios in the world, and their orientation in the earth's magnetic field. This has been coordinated with a 36-foot wide turntable system that you can place your listening environment into; this is then synchronized with the reference data and modified based on your latitude, so you can be sure that you are listening to music with the identical geomagnetics as originally recorded and mastered. I've found this improves brightness, with a generally punchier base and cleaner transients.

I'm about to complete development of an exciting new version that adds 3d positioning, so consistent tracking of true galactic north can also be maintained; we found this actually fixed a subtle low-frequency wobble in the attack sounds, particularly noticeable when you are listening to Bootsy Collins. While the room did induce nausea in the first test pilots, all unanimously agreed that it was a small price to pay for a high quality rendering of the original mu-tron envelope filter.
posted by jenkinsEar at 6:15 PM on January 3, 2015 [33 favorites]


the audiophile community is a rich vein of bad crazy.

It's only "bad" if I can't get a piece of the action.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:18 PM on January 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


This is some beautiful satire, intentional or not.

(The author could just as easily have typed the words "I DO NOT UNDERSTAND HOW COMPUTERS WORK" again and again for several pages.)
posted by edheil at 6:19 PM on January 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


The cynic in me believes that the consumers of high end audio gear aren't actually that gullible; they're just buying something slightly different than advertized. It's sort of like saying "Why would someone buy a Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Tourbillon Chronograph for around $300K when a digital watch will keep better time?" Function is not the point, they're buying the ability to say: "See this normally mundane thing? My version of this normally mundane thing costs more than you have equity in your house."
posted by Grimgrin at 6:20 PM on January 3, 2015 [11 favorites]


This is when it really pays off to have a tin ear and no discernible taste...
posted by jim in austin at 6:20 PM on January 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


it's the fact that these guys completely ignore what's happening in the studio. They seem completely unconcerned about what brand of harddrive was used to record the music, whether their cables were gold plated, whether a special magnetic resonance dampening prism or whatever was present.

There seem to be two contradictory lines of thought in audiophile culture, sometimes pursued simultaneously - an obsession with absolute "fidelity" to the recording and a desire to extract a "better" sound from the recording. And yet don't see people collecting all the popular studio monitors, and many audiophiles are positively disdainful of the idea of "EQ to taste."
posted by atoxyl at 6:21 PM on January 3, 2015


> How is it that people who are, um, lets be kind and say gullible enough to buy this sort of thing have so much money to blow on this stuff?

If they have enough money to blow on this stuff (and and there's a segment of the market that replaces the components in their audio system regularly, each multi-kilobuck piece getting swapped out in turn over the course of a year or two), what makes you say they're gullible? They're not compromising their own wealth by doing it.
posted by ardgedee at 6:28 PM on January 3, 2015


I've been thinking about upgrading my modest stereo setup for a few years now, but every time I read an article or thread like this I worry that doing so will turn into the beginning of a story I'll one day be telling at AA (Audiophiles Anonymous).
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:30 PM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


And yeah of course you could get some pretty accomplished musicians to play in your living room for the price of some of this stuff.
posted by atoxyl at 6:30 PM on January 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


I should dig up the email exchange I had years ago with a self-professed "audiophile" in which he argued that gold CDs sound better than silver ones (all other things being equal). And, of course, you can always run a green marker around the edge as well - this absorbs stray notes. Or something.
posted by parki at 6:30 PM on January 3, 2015


i suppose, just maybe, just possibly, that a 5600 rpm hard drive might have a little more digital jitter than a 7200 rpm drive, although i'm really not willing to say so

but i did a search for "defrag" and "frag" on that page and nothing came up

wouldn't hard drive fragmentation* have even more to do with audio quality? - and if they didn't check that, how the hell could they really say there was any difference?

*trust me, a severly fragemented hard drive can play hell with audio playback - i await breathlessly the 30K fragmenter that will align my files and 0s and 1s in pristine order
posted by pyramid termite at 6:30 PM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


This advertising is aimed at those with disposible income. It used to be men in their mid twenties, when I first heard the discussion. Audio freaking is as close to nesting behavior as some young men get, aside from the attractive automobile. Dan Akroyd said it all in one SNL skit, describing his shag carpet lined van, as "the plush chamber."
posted by Oyéah at 6:33 PM on January 3, 2015


Dude, if you were serious about your audio you would defrag your drive and align your bits by hand.
posted by soundguy99 at 6:34 PM on January 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


> You need air processing, noob. I produce all my HIFI quality air mixes from fractional distillation of bog standard "heathen" air. The wrong gas mix just ruins your sound quality.

Heh.

Electrostatic speakers are sensitive to air humidity. When the air's too dry, they can short. You can find conversations between dedicated owners of Quad ESLs, exchanging humidification techniques and debating optimal humidity levels.
posted by ardgedee at 6:35 PM on January 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


> Yep, same here. Metafilter, I ask you in complete seriousness, is the first link a joke?

I assure you it is not a joke.

The Coconut Audio link I posted upthread is... harder to say. The founder was notorious for trolling the fans at the woo end of the spectrum on various audio boards, and getting banned from most of those boards. At some point, I suspect, he decided it was a better use of his time to take their money instead, so he gets his fun by seeing how far he can push their boundaries before his customers turn on him.
posted by ardgedee at 6:39 PM on January 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


I believe discussion of A/B testing is outlawed on most serious audiophile forums.

For reasons of shut up, that's why.
posted by Sebmojo at 6:45 PM on January 3, 2015 [12 favorites]


"Why would someone buy a Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Tourbillon Chronograph for around $300K when a digital watch will keep better time?"

Watches are a little bit of a different thing. That watch is demonstrably a piece of craftsmanship. The tourbillon movement is an exquisite work of art, the chronograph is a challenging complication, and Audemars Piguet is one of the top watchmaking artisans in the world. It is true that the $300,000 mechanical watch won't keep time as well as a $5 digital watch (much less your mobile phone, which will synchronizes itself). My impression is a lot of these audiophile things are complete bullshit. Like the $800 HDMI cables are physically identical to $20 HDMI cables with $1 of irrelevant gold electroplated on the ends.

The uncomfortable comparison I see is to wine. For New Year's I shared a friend's bottle of 1979 Haut Brion. It was fantastic. But I'm not sure I can objectively tell you that it was worth what it costs. I doubt I could pick it out in a blind taste tasting against another Bordeaux that is one tenth the price. Wine's doubly ridiculous because it's a consumable product, you drink it and it's gone.

(And since folks have asked. Of course the hard drive type has no subtle effect on the quality of the sound. Either the drive delivers the bits or doesn't. Jitter, etc is made irrelevant because any digital audio player is buffering. If your drive is too slow or flaky you'll hear horrible giant skips or the music will just stop. Same thing with HDMI cable; either it works or it doesn't, there's no subtle signal degradation. Unless you think you can hear those warm soft 0 to 1 edge transitions in Hitachi drives. I'm telling you, finest sound in the world.)
posted by Nelson at 6:45 PM on January 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


i suppose, just maybe, just possibly, that a 5600 rpm hard drive might have a little more digital jitter than a 7200 rpm drive, although i'm really not willing to say so

Nah, the files are not played, like, directly off the hard disk. They're read into memory and well buffered. There is really no chance the hard drive couldn't keep up, either.
posted by RustyBrooks at 6:48 PM on January 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm gonna go ahead and say if you spend more than $1,000 (on your entire setup) then you're a sucker. I've spent around that much, including an excellent turntable at $400, a pre-amp, a receiver, floor-standing speakers, excellent Grado headphones, and assorted cables, and all of it sounds wonderful to my ears. You could spend far less, probably.
posted by naju at 6:53 PM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


That's some real VX junkie-level bullshit.
posted by zardoz at 6:55 PM on January 3, 2015


I love stuff like this. The only thing it leaves me wondering about is how many people are there out there who actually spend the silly amounts of money the products are advertised for. 1,000? 50,000?
posted by benito.strauss at 7:00 PM on January 3, 2015


I thought that $1000 hdmi cable was just some sort of glitch on the best buy site. Then I looked at the similar items section...
posted by geegollygosh at 7:02 PM on January 3, 2015


You want something good? Hereabouts for $60 or so gets you 50+50 RMS with frankly exceptional quality.
posted by Wolof at 7:03 PM on January 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


I believe discussion of A/B testing is outlawed on most serious audiophile forums.

For reasons of shut up, that's why.


Where it is a duty to worship the sun, it is pretty sure to be a crime to examine the laws of heat.
posted by acb at 7:06 PM on January 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


You really need a hard drive that uses tubes.
posted by double block and bleed at 7:06 PM on January 3, 2015 [12 favorites]


Nah, the files are not played, like, directly off the hard disk. They're read into memory and well buffered. There is really no chance the hard drive couldn't keep up, either.

Looking forward to tomorrow's article, where this brand of RAM sounds so much "friendlier" and "warmer" and "less tense" than that brand of RAM.
posted by mhoye at 7:14 PM on January 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


The only way your hard drive can affect your music quality is if it's spinning very loudly.
posted by Rangi at 7:15 PM on January 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


Where it is a duty to worship the sun...
☀ PRAISE THE SUN!
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:20 PM on January 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


The only way your hard drive can affect your music quality is if it's spinning very loudly.

Well, actually, computer sound sucked for a long time (as in, playing music off an audio card from a computer) because they used the computers switching power supply, which would have fluctuations whenever the hard drive was in use (or other sporadic demands). You could literally hear the effect of the hard drive spinning. But that's not true any more except for maybe some super cheapo stuff and anyway no audiophile is going to be doing that - surely they're taking digital outs from the computer and plugging those into a dedicated preamp.
posted by RustyBrooks at 7:21 PM on January 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


RustyBrooks: that's interesting. The audio data is read into RAM for it to be played, so you're talking about power fluctuations caused by hard drive activity unrelated to the audio playback, right? In which case any multitasking could cause that: if the hard drive starts spinning, or the graphics card starts running, or so on.
posted by Rangi at 7:25 PM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Right (well, it could be related also, reading the next block or whatever, but it doesn't have to be related). If the audio card is powered off a noisy power supply, then it's output will be noisy also. You can use better or seperate power supplies, you can filter power supply line noise, etc. Actually switching power supplies are in generally bad power sources for audio for just this reason.
posted by RustyBrooks at 7:29 PM on January 3, 2015


I use an external sound card plugged into a power conditioner for this reason (with my Macbook Pro) because otherwise I'm getting pops and clicks when the furnace turns on or off which is on a different circuit but the same ground loop. There's woo, and there are actual practical concerns that come in to play when you're not only playing back, but recording into your computer.
posted by Evstar at 7:34 PM on January 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


For those who have difficulty working out whether the article is serious or not, it may be your hard drive's influence on the web page. I cloud-washed mine via Amazon's Internet Washing Service to run them through a host-network-host cleaning tunnel and then put them back onto an experimental quantum storage device that I've been working on, hosted in an otherwise ordinary looking aquarium. Looking at the patterns that the active storage components are making as they swim around in the medium has revealed many things to me about the article and, coincidentally, have revealed to me that each cycle of woo is in fact built out of four separate and overlapping cycles that I call WOOCUBE.
posted by nfalkner at 7:35 PM on January 3, 2015 [7 favorites]


I believe discussion of A/B testing is outlawed on most serious audiophile forums.

Not all, but you can find numerous articles of the sort with a quick google search for "no double blind audio" and the like. There actually used to be a forum set up expressly for this purpose, (IIRC) called the No Double Blind forum, that forbid discussion on the topic, but I can't find it anymore. Lord they were hilariously blinkered. Their precious golden ears simply couldn't be wrong - it had to be the basis of scientific understanding that was flawed instead.
posted by Palindromedary at 7:41 PM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


With both audiophile and camera stuff I can't tell woo from reality, and when I've been shown the supposedly amazing results I have to confess that it seems fine but I can't tell the difference. Both hobbies seem to attract a certain sort of man who will talk to you endlessly about it if you make the mistake of politely asking a related question.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:45 PM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


> As always, the audiophile community is a rich vein of bad crazy.

dammit dammit dammit mhoye, but I'd been planning a best-of Wat HiFi? fpp for months! It's a joy when a new story turns up in the RSS feed. Seriously, folks, dig deep into that site - the wat is very strong there! My favourite is the Cable Towers.
posted by scruss at 7:58 PM on January 3, 2015 [12 favorites]


Cable Towers, oh my god.
posted by Evstar at 8:04 PM on January 3, 2015


...but there’s another type of noise altogether
"there's another type of noise"

(Everybody!)
posted by yoink at 8:06 PM on January 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


My favorite (real) audio gear brand: this Schiit is Bananas!
posted by spitbull at 8:13 PM on January 3, 2015


Also, I actually have a wax cylinder recorder in my office.
posted by spitbull at 8:14 PM on January 3, 2015


every time I read an article or thread like this I worry that doing so will turn into the beginning of a story I'll one day be telling at AA (Audiophiles Anonymous).

There was only ever one meeting of AudioAnon, which was light on the personal testimony--as people kept moving their chairs around for the ideal listening position, and fights nearly broke out over choice spots--and the organization broke up after a three-hour planning meeting that couldn't come to a consensus over the type of carpeting for the walls.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:15 PM on January 3, 2015 [14 favorites]


This is why my music-listening setup is all vacuum tubes, from the speakers to the computer connected to them.
posted by bokane at 8:16 PM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Cable Towers, complete with Masonic symbolism.
posted by Oyéah at 9:08 PM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Some audiophile stuff still around, and sure some of it's crazy as always. But it seems like what used to be called "hi-fi" has largely faded away. For everyday consumers at least. It's like the battle's over and little computer speakers and subwoofers won.
posted by Rich Smorgasbord at 9:08 PM on January 3, 2015


It all boils down to electrons, right? It's nothing but electrons. Shouldn't we be worrying about the quality of the electrons? Mine are gold plated and their magnetic moments are synchronized. Now the high hat sounds like a high hat. Custom signature electrons can be yours for only $799 per quantities of 100,000.
posted by njohnson23 at 9:32 PM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


I cloud-washed mine via Amazon's Internet Washing Service

You joke, but from the Wat HiFi tumblr: ISOTEK Full System Enhancer & Rejuvenation Disc
posted by bonje at 10:00 PM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


It all does boil down to electrons.... but we're all adults here... and know that you can't tell one from another.... what you can do is make sure they all have the same spin.... and there must be a $10k gadget to do that job.
posted by MikeWarot at 10:05 PM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Looking forward to tomorrow's article, where this brand of RAM sounds so much "friendlier" and "warmer" and "less tense" than that brand of RAM.

...and fist fights over the right CAS timings...
posted by Sebmojo at 10:05 PM on January 3, 2015


People, people. You accuse authors of SATIRISM? Innocent until proven guilty, I say.

I could not parse the ad for the object that transmits a widening beam at your home stereo but if it's a very powerful electromagnet, might it make your stereo's output sound kind of different? From there you just have to convince yourself you like it better that way. Anyway I didn't see a plug so it's probably not an electromagnet.

The second one is the really hilarious one. If it is satire, my only possible critique is length. I got a third of the way through. But it was FLAWLESS if it's taking the piss -- the endless parade of minute aural perceptions described in half-technical half-poetic terms, the dutiful catalog of the hardware model numbers. Skimming over the rest, it didn't seem to build toward any kind of a hint that the authors think this is hilarious.

WHAT IF the authors believe they had the experience they're describing? How is it possible, without stretching the bounds of plausibility, to give them the benefit of the doubt? Here are some ideas:

1.
Each evaluated hard drive was held gently against the reviewer's left ear throughout testing. While they noticed persistent noise activity from each drive, they felt it was part of the organic source of the audio chain, and that each influenced the overall playback fidelity in different ways, as described throughout the article.

2.
The two of them are part of a death cult and they do EVERYTHING this way, having experiences together, inventing perceptions about the experiences, then agreeing with each other about them and writing them down. They have already negotiated between themselves that that they control the universe.

3.
The unconscionably expensive artisanal DAC that they use was engineered and manufactured by charlatans and has a defect in the sample clock, coloring all audio playback in random and ALMOST but not actually imperceptible ways, in turn causing these two genuine music playback conniseurs to notice huge differences between decodings of identical files. If they didn't switch some component in the chain every time they hit play, they'd discover this in an instant. But they tried that once and felt like they were going nuts, so they avoid it.

4.
These hard drives bear incredibly subtle differences in data transmission characteristics (throughput spiking, block parity concatenation schemes, etc), some of which are able to influence the host system's buffering behavior in ways that could not matter in most data retrieval scenarios, but do matter in this test because a VERY EXPENSIVE asio driver once taught the playback computer to feel.

It is of course also possible that the post is neither satire nor an EXHAUSTIVE description of a bunch of hallucinations, but is instead a disinformation campaign aimed at bolstering future (current??) sales of top-of-the-line, uncompromising audiophile hard drives.
posted by damehex at 10:21 PM on January 3, 2015 [10 favorites]


In my 20s I spent some time lusting after a nice pair of studio monitors. I still haven't got them yet, and am not yet convinced it would help me mix my music better. Should get a loaner pair to try out or something.
posted by jonbro at 10:22 PM on January 3, 2015


Fellow computer audio enthusiast (and Naim PR person) Stephen Harris and I launched into some preliminary listening tests ... [emph. mine]
posted by invitapriore at 10:25 PM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


All this stuff to me is mostly harmless. I see it like a placebo. There is really no difference between thinking your music sounds better and your music actually sounding better, right? I guess it is unethical to bilk people out of their cash by selling the emperor's new clothes, but if the people genuinely believe they are getting better sound, good for them.
posted by Literaryhero at 10:58 PM on January 3, 2015


you would defrag your drive and align your bits by hand.

Here's the next frontier of audiophile-victimization: Something like a hex editor for hand tweaking the audio file. Use a font with text figures for digits and then claim that there's a second-order equalizing to be done based on the patterns of ascenders and descenders. Let them tweak the file as much as they want, saving their work as a shadow file so that they believe they're actually tweaking it. 1 in 20 times, fuck up the audio file really noticeably. Charge extra for an undo plugin. A lot extra.
posted by fatbird at 10:59 PM on January 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


And as an added bonus, we all get some free entertainment out of the deal. Win-win.
posted by Literaryhero at 11:00 PM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Guys, I just got some ECC memory to use during daylight. Turns out the sun zaps your computer's electrons resulting in a duller, flatter playback. The authentic full sounds were previously only achievable at night, but now I can hear it on the brightest summer day!
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 11:13 PM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm gonna go ahead and say if you spend more than $1,000 (on your entire setup) then you're a sucker.

I think you're good up to around $10k, actually, for a 2 channel system before you start edging into purely status seeking objects. Not that the quality of the $10k system over the $1k system is going to be worth anything to someone for whom $9k represents real money.

I think most modern behavior is status seeking - the audiophile stuff is fun because it's such transparent nonsense from the perspective of anyone outside of it, and it's fun to watch the placebo effect work in this culture where material wealth is prized with the extreme examples of something like $5k+ USB cables. It's even more fun to contrast that niche hobby with status seeking behaviors that are almost universally internalized - like fashion - "if I/he/she dress(es) like this, it means this about that person." And to watch everyone deny the status component.
posted by MillMan at 11:21 PM on January 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


I spent some time lusting after a nice pair of studio monitors.

Speakers do matter. They're the one element with moving parts and they depart furthest from the theoretical ideal. You'll know you have really good monitors when you can hear annoying shit like sirens and ringing phones on your commercially produced CDs. "Airy highs" and "accurate bass" is a lot of subjective mumbo jumbo, but a fucking telephone is hard to dismiss as placebo.

Whether it's worth spending lots of money to hear ringing phones and downshifting trucks is a matter of debate.
posted by ryanrs at 11:28 PM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


In theory your hard drive could not be able to load the file fast enough. In practice I'd be very surprised if that was a legitimate concern.

And you would be correct. Audio is an extremely low bandwidth application. Even uncompressed audio streaming from a CD is less than 0.2 MB/second. An average disk drive has a bandwidth of a thousand times that. So getting even uncompressed audio data from a disk drive uses less than 0.1% of its bandwidth.

Another way to think about it that a disk drive is capable of delivering the equivalent of an entire 80-minute CD in less than 5 seconds.

Fragmented or unfragmented makes absolutely no difference.
posted by JackFlash at 12:13 AM on January 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Very high-end audio stuff is definitely status display, and in that narrow sense it's no more or no less offensive than spending an equivalent amount of money on a diamond-encrusted iPhone case, or any of the myriad forms of designer clothing that are expensive purely because they feature someone's name on it, and thus convey to everyone else that you have a shitload of money to burn. They're all reasons to bump someone a few places towards the front of the line that leads to a bloodstained brick wall when the revolution comes, but not much more than that.

But what makes "audiophile" gear controversial is that the manufacturers and owners alike seemingly can't help themselves make patently ridiculous claims from time to time.

You don't see the fashion industry trying especially hard to justify their pricing—even for things as stupid as a $120 plain white t-shirt. (The industry and surrounding culture have a pretty uniform attitude of "if you are bothered by the price, it's probably not for you, you filthy Walmart-shopping peasant.")

It'd be one thing if the companies selling $2,000 digital-audio cables just admitted that they're selling a lifestyle accessory to a certain type of rich status-seeker, and the status-seekers that they were buying them because they can; what you'd then have would be the HDMI-compliant equivalent to a bottle of shitty Alize cognac that sells for two grand on account of the bottle it comes in. I doubt the Alize people are going to claim that their product tastes different coming out of that bottle. They're probably not even going to seriously engage in such a discussion.

But the audiophile world is littered with weird apologia and angsty screeds against ABX testing and the scientific method in general, in defense of their little hobby. And that's where the whole thing crosses the line from a merely injudicious use of money, one among many, to a laughably tawdry exercise in self-justification. It's a hobby full of people united in their desire not just to buy $2,000 bottles of shitty cognac cables, but to convince themselves and anyone else who will listen that it tastes sounds better, too.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:18 AM on January 4, 2015 [14 favorites]


"I'm P.T. Barnum, and I approve this message."
posted by panglos at 12:34 AM on January 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's even more fun to contrast that niche hobby with status seeking behaviors that are almost universally internalized - like fashion - "if I/he/she dress(es) like this, it means this about that person." And to watch everyone deny the status component.

I am now adding a line reading just "audiophiles" to my list of reasons why everyone should have to wear mandatory identical Mao suits.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 1:13 AM on January 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


RustyBrooks: that's interesting. The audio data is read into RAM for it to be played, so you're talking about power fluctuations caused by hard drive activity unrelated to the audio playback, right? In which case any multitasking could cause that: if the hard drive starts spinning, or the graphics card starts running, or so on.

My in-ear headphones are super sensitive. It's basically awful to use them without an attenuator (which is basically a variable resistor), because: 1) like 3% volume is too loud, so there's very little resolution in volume control (silence, ok, loud, and then 75 versions of way too loud), and 2) at those low levels, all the EMI and power fluctuations really come to the fore. Whenever you drag a window you hear it scraping around through video memory. This is on modern systems, though using integrated motherboard audio.
posted by aubilenon at 1:22 AM on January 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


Expensive A/V equipment is a much more effective way of showing you have money to burn than a toilet paper roll of $100 bills, because not everybody who visits your house will go to the bathroom.
posted by Spatch at 2:13 AM on January 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


Those first transitions: from shitty white earbuds to a nice pair of headphones, from the built in sound card on your computer to a decent external dac, from computer speakers to a halfway decent pair of monitors; these are all real, and very intense and pleasurable improvements.

There are enough stages of improvement that you start to imagine how much better it could be if you could upgrade things one more time. And there are still improvements, just much smaller ones. And the next set of improvements after that are smaller still...

It's like an addict searching for that first high.

Those first few upgrades are amazing, but just stick to those. And don't get anything from Bose.
posted by idiopath at 3:31 AM on January 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


You know, Bose really isn't that bad. It's not fucking amazing, mind blowing audio precision equipment, but at least they give a fuck about making your lounge room not look like an alien just laid a great big turd in the middle of it. Bose is fine.
posted by selfish at 4:30 AM on January 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


I feel like this has the potential to be an xkcd comic, and may already be one.

http://xkcd.com/841/
posted by dubitable at 5:01 AM on January 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm gonna go ahead and say if you spend more than $1,000 (on your entire setup) then you're a sucker. I've spent around that much, including an excellent turntable at $400, a pre-amp, a receiver, floor-standing speakers, excellent Grado headphones, and assorted cables, and all of it sounds wonderful to my ears. You could spend far less, probably.

I helped a friend buy a(very skillfully thrifted) setup for about $100 that was jaw droppingly good. higher end 80s nakamichi stasis amp, polk monitor 5 jrs, some higher end sony late 80s cd player that was really heavy and well made. Even if you threw in the decent DAC/interface he used with it sometimes it still wouldn't go north of $300. None of it was stuff raved about online, just you'd find an audiokarma thread going "oh yea, i remember $PIECEOFGEAR being pretty nice actually" and not much more info floating around.

I myself strongly believe in the $1000 thing. For that much or a little less i had a rebuilt and upgraded set of original advents, top of the line harman/kardon citation control+power amp set, technics 1200 with a few upgrades, an old higher end ADC cd player, several nice DACs(one solid, and one breathtakingly good but old as hell that i picked up for peanuts). I also had a collection of solid headphones(good set of IEMs, good set of over the ear, good set of walk around). Oh, and a mobile headphone preamp.

Later on i ended up partially starting over to get something that actually fit in my new apartment, and that i could use a remote with... and ended up with some nice infinity towers and a modern receiver. And it's just... not as good. I feel like i lost an extra 10-20% of intangible "goodness", mostly in the domain of power on tap for quick transient bass stuff and extension in to the low end, and some smoothness in the extreme high end which sounds harsh now. Old amp + new speakers retains the magic, new amp + new speakers... meh. All the old stuff is still in storage and i dream of having somewhere to set it up at some point in the future. Notably, no little plug-in-box phono preamp has even held a candle to what was in even some of the cheaper old receivers i've had.

If you just want to listen to music though, and maybe occasionally watch a movie just in stereo... an eclectic setup of still functional or restored vintage gear can be had for a couple hundred bucks that will make any soundbar, or low-midrange home theater setup sound really flaccid.

To get more towards the $1000 end though, my coworker is basically doc brown from back to the future. he's in his 70s, collects stereo stuff, and is basically an electronics genius. He probably has 50k of stereo stuff in his house. Almost all of it meticulously picked up from thrift stores, estate sales, pawn shops, etc. Some of the older stuff you can pick up for a couple hundred bucks now was in its heyday(which hell, might have only been like 25 or 30 years ago) megabuxx. The midrange stuff we bought is one thing, but when you're really willing to buckle down and spend a grand to buy what was originally 5 or even 10 grand of stuff, you can get some amazing gear. There's nothing new in that price range that's going to sound as good as like, a polk SDA set, some variation of a >1k turntable, some decent monoblocs or just a gigantic solid state power amp, and a fancy control/preamp.

Depreciation and price variation with this kind of stuff is weird. Sometimes it theoretically didn't go down that much, but there's always that thrift store, grandma, or craigslist person who just wants to unload it.

By the way, i think this applies to a few other things. Bicycles, for sure. A $300 one is where it starts getting good if you can hunt a solid used deal, and $1000 is where it's inarguably great and a point of massive diminishing returns from there.

something something topics i could rant about for hours until i sound like a madman. i think i can feel my beard growing
posted by emptythought at 5:38 AM on January 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


You see this sort of woo in guitar magazines when they review cables. Never a mention of double blind tests, no use of oscilloscopes, signal generators or impedance measurements. But plenty of "transparent" and "enveloping tunelessness", of course.
posted by tommasz at 5:45 AM on January 4, 2015


Grumpy old geek: To keep random air movement from distorting the sound, I do all my serious listening in a vacuum.

Ah, so you use in-ear phones.
posted by Gyan at 6:19 AM on January 4, 2015


Unless you can get Bob Dylan to sit on your couch, play "Blonde on Blonde" and ask him if it sounds right, audiophile tinkering and blathering on about accurate "transparency" and such, is subjective bullshit.

Oh yes, Bob Dylan, the audio expert.

"You listen to these modern records, they're atrocious, they have sound all over them. There's no definition of nothing, no vocal, no nothing, just like – static. Even these songs probably sounded ten times better in the studio when we recorded 'em. CDs are small. There's no stature to it."
posted by Foosnark at 8:02 AM on January 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Bob Dylan himself is actually a lot better sheathed in iridium now that you mention it.
posted by Wolfdog at 8:21 AM on January 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


Be sure and read the reviews! From the last link:

I researched HDMI cables for several weeks, reading reviews and watching unboxing videos. My friends recommended that I just buy an inexpensive cable and started spewing techno-babble at me about how HDMI cables work. They claimed that it's not possible for a higher priced HDMI cable to improve picture quality because of how digital video signals work. Something about 1s and 0s and error correction. I was skeptical. I mean my friends are very smart, but they aren't Best Buy employee smart.

Which leads, of course, to:

Metafilter: very smart, but not Best Buy employee smart.
posted by TedW at 8:25 AM on January 4, 2015 [10 favorites]


I like the vintage near-analog sound of a 1990 Seagate 40mb platter in a bespoke cast iron breadbox with a SCSI connector. I spent many years housing it in a LaCie firewire 400 enclosure, but then I discovered LaCie uses anodized aluminum. Anodization, of course, means the drive cannot "breathe" properly in the more dynamic passages of late Wagner operas. The other secret of course is that the playback heads must never have been used on a Fat32 formatted drive, or they will have a tell-tale edginess in the midrange.
posted by spitbull at 9:29 AM on January 4, 2015 [8 favorites]


You see this sort of woo in guitar magazines when they review cables.

Too true, although way back in September '97 Guitar Player did an entertaining "cable shootout" where they subjected the cables to all sorts of "real world" tests, like dropping a cymbal edge-down onto the cable from head height, and then playing jump rope with the cable to see how well the connections to the plug ends held up.

I can't find the full article any-damn-where online in full, but some of the results were posted here on EL34World.com, and the opening paragraphs -- which describe some of the actual measurable factors that can affect the "tone" of a guitar cable -- I found here at HighBeamResearch.com (which appears to be some kind of for-pay publication archive, so I suppose if anyone was willing to sign up for a 7-day free trial and then deal with the hassle of canceling afterwards you could get the whole thing.)
posted by soundguy99 at 9:33 AM on January 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I doubt the Alize people are going to claim that their product tastes different coming out of that bottle. They're probably not even going to seriously engage in such a discussion.

You'll get similarly unmeasurable, qualitative claims from the consumers of both audiophile equipment and clothing, but yes, only audiophile manufacturers will do the same thing. I'll claim because it's a niche subculture it has to at least pretend to justify itself to outsiders as well as lure people in, whereas with fashion the whole edifice is accepted so no one does much more than roll their eyes at the latest Paris fashion show and what rich people are up to in their own status games.
posted by MillMan at 10:21 AM on January 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Sound wise, you can actually find worse value for your money than Bose, but it takes some effort.
posted by idiopath at 2:35 PM on January 4, 2015


I'll claim because it's a niche subculture it has to at least pretend to justify itself to outsiders

Probably true, at least in large part, I guess. I'm not sure off the top of my head of any subcultures that seem to have as aggressive a Napoleon complex about the practical shortcomings of their hobby as some audiophiles do, but I suspect they're out there.

Whenever you drag a window you hear it scraping around through video memory. This is on modern systems, though using integrated motherboard audio.

It's worth noting that the fact that the "audiophile" world is largely about fools being separated from their money shouldn't be taken as evidence that there isn't both good and bad audio gear in the world. There definitely is. I too had a computer with audio circuits so poorly designed you could hear the video card howling whenever you dragged a window around the screen; it was not a pleasant machine to use. (Which seems like an incredibly simple thing to test for and correct as part of the design process, but nope, there it was.)

And there is an actual high-end audio reproduction market, distinct from the "audiophile" flimflam; it's just aimed mostly at studios and concert venues and the like, and it works with rather than against physics and science.

On the brighter side: the Internet has made it quite a bit easier for someone interested in building a nice stereo system on a budget to avoid the pseudoscience; the trick is to run away from publications that owe their existence to advertising revenues from overpriced cable manufacturers and the like. (*cough* Stereophile.) Hydrogen Audio, AVS Forum, and Head-Fi are all pretty cool resources which didn't exist a few decades ago. I like to think they have helped steer some people away from the worst of the 'high end'.

The final word on 'audiophile' gear is from a sound engineering guy I used to work with, who was quick to point out that if your standard of measurement was purely subjective listening comparisons, for the price of a $150 set of speaker cables you could buy fifty feet of Home Depot electrical wire and a bag of weed, and that would definitely sound better...
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:37 PM on January 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


spitbull: Also, I actually have a wax cylinder recorder in my office.

You have a cylinder? My wax Klein bottle recorder will run circles around that old thing. Literally. I think.

I'm afraid to turn it on again after the last time. Oh god, the screaming.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 3:24 PM on January 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Bob Pollard records a lot of his music onto a big dildo and if you're using gold-plated ambient field anything to listen to Guided By Voices then you are a stupid silly idiot.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:35 PM on January 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


And there is an actual high-end audio reproduction market, distinct from the "audiophile" flimflam; it's just aimed mostly at studios and concert venues and the like, and it works with rather than against physics and science.

One cool thing i like about modern home theater stuff is that a lot of midrange receivers are starting to include a microphone you can slap on a camera tripod, and a software routine that plays pink noise out of each channel then all the channels, and auto-adjusts the levels and eq. some of the better ones give you feedback on screen too showing you how it's adjusting the levels per channel, and the EQ, etc.
posted by emptythought at 3:39 PM on January 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Hee, audiophiles. A guy I know brags about his $65,000 speaker cables -- of course, he knows the "electronics genius" who makes them in his basement, and was able to get them for just $2,000. They have arrows on them to indicate which way the electrons go!
posted by miyabo at 5:54 PM on January 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


I love Metafilter - stuff like this comes up and makes my day.

Just like the 'watch' mentioned above becomes a Chronograph for 300k, shouldn't a cable costing four digits be called something other than a cable?
posted by fluffycreature at 5:23 AM on January 5, 2015


Sound wise, you can actually find worse value for your money than Bose, but it takes some effort.

That used to be true, but since Beats it now doesn't take that much effort.
posted by The Bellman at 6:43 AM on January 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Man, I've ruined so many hard drives trying to get an even coating of green magic marker on the edges of those flimsy platters. Still, it's better than having to calibrate all the NAND gates on a solid-state drive. For a typical 250GB SSD, I might go through 4 or 5 green laser pointers trying to get every single one of those things properly zeroed-out.

Of course it's totally worth it. If you've never heard Mstislav Rostropovich's Bach Cello Suites streaming from a gold-gated SSD that's optically silent with zero bit noise, you're really missing out.
posted by straight at 10:42 AM on January 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


The music of Bach should only be listened to on a period appropriate wooden hard drive.
posted by Wolfdog at 1:40 PM on January 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


I am going to be angry for the rest of the day.
posted by Wolfdog at 1:41 PM on January 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ha ha, that's what I say every morning when I wake up!
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:13 PM on January 5, 2015 [5 favorites]


Hmm, they put a password in front of it. Guess we'll never know the truth.
posted by jonbro at 10:16 PM on January 5, 2015


The music of Bach should only be listened to on a period appropriate wooden hard drive.

Nonsense. The only reason we know anything about how Bach's music sounded in his day is because of the half-dozen accidental "recordings" made by metal smiths who were etching designs into gold and silver vases in a shop in Köthen near Leopold's castle, made audibly accessible to us only recently by advances in LED technology that have brought lasers down into the 500 nm range.
posted by straight at 11:34 PM on January 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


The only reason we know anything about how Bach's music sounded in his day is because of the half-dozen accidental "recordings" made by metal smiths...

On the contrary, we have the express written documentation of numerous peltmongers at Weimar - and not only their qualitative descriptions survive, but as modern mathematics has revealed, the coefficents in their accounts books from the time can actually be used to reconstruct the exact waveforms of old Bach's playing. But you've probably never even heard of furrier analysis.
posted by Wolfdog at 3:44 AM on January 6, 2015 [7 favorites]


> "You'll get similarly unmeasurable, qualitative claims from the consumers of both audiophile equipment and clothing, but yes, only audiophile manufacturers will do the same thing."

Bose before hose
posted by kyrademon at 5:48 AM on January 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


> Just like the 'watch' mentioned above becomes a Chronograph for 300k, shouldn't a cable costing four digits be called something other than a cable?

Well sure, nobody buys a $5,000 cable. That sounds like something you can buy at Radio Shack. You hook up your $10k DAC to your $15k preamp with an interconnect.
posted by TheCowGod at 1:59 PM on January 6, 2015 [7 favorites]


I've realized that the reason people are not necessarily as in love with classic audiophile website Machina Dynamica as I am, is because they assume it's a joke. It's not a joke. This gentleman will take your $299 and ship you a Casio clock which will improve the audio and video quality of your system merely by being in the same room.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 12:14 PM on January 17, 2015 [5 favorites]


Dude, you forgot to link to the page where he explains how the Clever Little Clock works because EVOLUTION AND CALCULATION OF PREDATOR LOCATION AND TIME !! IT ALIGNS OUR PERCEPTION OF TIME !!!

Also he quotes Blade Runner completely unironically.
posted by soundguy99 at 1:06 PM on January 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


You two knew of this awesome piece of internet madness and you haven't FPP'd it?
posted by JHarris at 6:39 PM on January 17, 2015


I'm pretty certain Machina Dynamica's founded on the same premise as Coconut Audio that I mentioned upthread. They're playing for higher stakes and, without the founder having a prior reputation for trolling the audiophile community, they've managed to get positive attention from audio publications that Coconut Audio will probably never reach.

And, no, neither one of those sites are jokes, in the sense that they won't sell you exactly what they describe.

My favorite of the offerings is the Teleportation Tweak, in which for $60 the founder, Geoff Kait, will improve your listening experience by talking to you on the phone for 20 seconds.
posted by ardgedee at 6:42 PM on January 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


You two knew of this awesome piece of internet madness and you haven't FPP'd it?

Nah, it was new to me, I just went poking around the site a little more.

And after doing some more poking around the Machina Dynamica site & on teh Googlz, I think aerdgedee is probably right, Geoff Kait is pulling a long troll on the audiophool community, and lining his pockets while he does.

Whether this makes him a criminal or a genius I leave to the reader's discretion.
posted by soundguy99 at 7:42 PM on January 17, 2015


See, this is where the "fools and their money" arguments fall flat to my ears.

People shopping at the high end of audio can casually throw around a few thousand dollars on a retail therapy shopping trip. $350/ea carbon fiber power outlet covers to dampen electrical resonances? Okay! Their investments increased by more than that that during their retail therapy shopping trip. So sure, why the fuck not, it helps palliate a little anxiety about performance. And that particular detail of interior design just upped the looks-cool factor of the dedicated listening room. Swapping out all dozen outlet covers had less impact on his financial well-being than your decision to have take-out Chinese for dinner had on yours.

If you argue from the positions of skeptical pragmatism and consumer protection, you will always lose. The point of this merchandise is to make the customer feel good and appeal to their sense of control. The prices do not affect them in the slightest, and do not impede them from buying necessities or even other luxuries. It has less consequence to them than their preference for homeopathic therapists over western clinical practitioners. You are making this matter to you far more than it matters to them. After they buy these things, they will continue to be wealthy. You will continue to not be.

So this woo-infused merchandise is worth gawking at and mocking, sure. But you kind of have to stop there and move on. There's nobody being harmed, nobody who will go broke.
posted by ardgedee at 10:32 AM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is not actually accurate ardgedee, the reasons being the negative effect that such exchanges have on our greater culture. Because a lot more of our economy is switching itself around towards appealing to, and sometimes bilking, rich people rather than providing goods and services to everyone.

Put another way, instead of spending a few extra thousand dollars on maybe improving their audio setup enough to cause a barely perceptible effect, at best, why not give to charity? Or at least buy something the production of which will substantively employ people? Money used for one purpose isn't being used for other purposes. The people being rewarded are not providing any useful service. And movements of large amounts of money for little work, like a copper bar moving through a magnetic field, those create energy, they influence others to enter this new "industry," and that's not healthy for our economy, for our society.
posted by JHarris at 11:30 AM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Why buy a $50,000 turntable when you can buy a $200 record player? Why a $200 record player when you can buy one for $5 at a yard sale? Why spend $5 when all you need to listen to a record is a lazy suzan, sewing needle, and an improvised cardboard megaphone? After you've spent $0.15 on that sewing needle, anything more is purely a demonstration of the law of diminishing returns.

Left undiscussed as yet is that there are no small number of audio objectivists* who get shouty-mad when presented with the sort of woo in the FPP, yet do not in principle object to $10,000 amplifiers and $20,000 speakers, as long as they are provably performant to a level of precision inaccessible otherwise.

What you raise is a different debate entirely, shifting from "Why buy things with unprovable claims" to "why buy unnecessary things rather than be munificent", which gets pointlessly reductionist fast -- after all, who is the arbiter of what a comfortable level of living is? I mean -- yours is a fair question, but it's a totally different one.

*(Yes, objectivism vs. subjectivism is the big endian vs. little endian of audio. The majority of the audio community hasn't got patience with either extreme, as far as I can tell.)
posted by ardgedee at 1:28 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


I suppose it is. I was just reacting to the idea that no one was being harmed by these people. In small amounts, sure. But with magazines starting to cater to this kind of thinking, it's starting to seem to me like this kind of woo is being institutionalized, which has been happening a lot lately what with global warming deniers, anti-vaxxers, trickle down economists, and what seems like pretty much the whole Republican party these days, just for starters. So I've become kind of hyper-vigilant in watching for that kind of thing setting down roots. Sorry 'bout that.
posted by JHarris at 2:37 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Fair enough, it's something I'm willing to agree to disagree on. It's important to be diligent against the claims of faith healing, homeopathy, and so on, as you say; they have harmful consequences, or reinforce beliefs that militate against positive action.

I think I see the difference in that the unquantifiable, unfalsifiable claims in audio and other luxury goods have much more to do with stoking egos and satisfying urges to change and improve things that don't need improvement. A person would come to harm for resorting to a variety of alternative medicines when modern medical treatment is warranted; they can cause harm to others by perpetuating voodoo economics; but if they buy silk-wrapped gold-plated speaker cables that come with meaningless, untenable claims of performance, at worst they're just indulging in some spendy weirdass objets d'art.
posted by ardgedee at 3:00 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, I can certainly see value in that opinion! Well put.
posted by JHarris at 4:11 PM on January 18, 2015


Put another way, instead of spending a few extra thousand dollars on maybe improving their audio setup enough to cause a barely perceptible effect, at best, why not give to charity? Or at least buy something the production of which will substantively employ people? Money used for one purpose isn't being used for other purposes. The people being rewarded are not providing any useful service. And movements of large amounts of money for little work, like a copper bar moving through a magnetic field, those create energy, they influence others to enter this new "industry," and that's not healthy for our economy, for our society.

I agree with this. It's essentially taking money out of the system from one point of view, but it's not, because someone is essentially getting more capital for doing nothing.

The amounts of money involved here are non trivial. Like feed multiple families in a struggling village for an entire year, or more. Or hell, as you said, do something that actually creates jobs. This kind of stuff is either manufactured entirely by machine or by one or two people, for a very low bill of materials. It basically all goes in someones pocket.

I'm not an audio objectivist, and there's absolutely a point at which it crosses over in to making me really uncomfortable even with amps and stuff where it isn't just outright bilking.

I guess the woo-y objects d'art bug me as much as the giant high end amps do. Because of concentration of wealth, and just sheer pointlessness. It's like, "I've amassed all these resources, and i'd rather just piddle them away than actually do anything or engage society at all with them".

Don't know if i could draw a line at a specific point. I understand a $1000 amp, and i understand that a $5000 amp can be a hell of a lot nicer. But at a certain point $10,000 cables and $50,000 speakers just feel like a huge middle finger to the rest of society. It's like, a big "got mine, fuck yours" to everyone.

And fuck, i struggle with this shit when i buy a $2000 laptop.
posted by emptythought at 4:38 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think there's plenty of harm done when the people who can buy anything they want (including the government) are encouraged to want and be pleased by fantastical nonsense with no basis in reality, encouraged to ignore and disdain empiricism.
posted by straight at 9:27 AM on January 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


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